What is the origin of the canard that CNN is "liberal"?

In this thread – “What are the prospects for a left-wing analogue to Fox News?” http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=292551 – I begin with the assumption that the Big Three and CNN are really serious, unbiased journalistic institutions and that Fox is definitely biased to the right. Some conservative posters, OTOH, seem so convinced of liberal bias in CNN and the broadcast news outlets is so obvious that only a person blinded to reality would deny it. I can’t understand where this comes from. In the case of CNN in particular, an bias it has is to the right. The Republican Noise Machine (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1400048753/qid=1114981214/sr=8-1/ref=pd_csp_1/104-8981198-1809531?v=glance&s=books&n=507846), by David Brock, in Chapter 8, “Talking Heads,” points out some fairly obvious facts about CNN:

  • The initial lineup of pundit-commentators on CNN (itself a rare practice on the network news shows up to that point) included five conservatives (Barry Goldwater, Phyllis Schlafly, Robert Novak, Rowland Evans, and William Simon) and two liberals (Ralph Nader and Bella Abzug). “Among the five conservatives, there were no representatives of traditional Republicanism, then still a significant force in the GOP. All five conservatives came from the Reaganite right wing, a rather sudden and dramatic expansion of the spectrum of opinion that had been seen regularly on network television and a bonanza for the right-wing infiltration scheme.”

  • “The network commentaries had been delivered by seasoned and fair-minded newscaster; but on CNN, journalist and nonjournalist commentators commingled. Distinctions were blurred between the carefully hedged viewpoints offered by Richard Reeves, based on factual reporting and research, and the straightforward ideological advocacy of Phyllis Schlafly or the highly partisan attacks of a former Republican Cabinet official like Simon. . . . The Right’s political edge [in newspaper op-ed sections] in pitting [William] Safire against an unaligned, discriminating centrist liberal like [James] Reston would be magnified many times over on television.”

  • Ted Turner was the Rupert Murdoch of his day. In 1980, when he founded CNN, he was known as a “sort of right-wing Ralph Nader” who blamed a lot of the nation’s troubles on liberal bias in the broadcast news networks. He promised CNN would give both sides of the political spectrum “equal and fair treatment” (but see above). (Brock acknowledges that “Turner appeared to do nothing to slant the news reporting, and CNN’s brand was built on quality news, not politics or ideology.”)

  • On Turner’s watch, CNN developed Crossfire, the model for a new kind of confrontational, even pugilistic political talk show copied elsewhere on cable. “Extremism, it seems, made for good television. Yet in practice, Edith Efron’s “proportional representation” scheme was applied only to one side, leaving left-wing and even strong liberal voices out of the equation. The result was that if you were a conservative with a voice in print, no matter how extreme or dim, you could now get on television, where many more will see you than read you. If you were a liberal, the springboard had no bounce. Top conservative columnists like [George] Will and [Bob] Novak became familiar faces thanks to television, while Ellen Goodman and Molly Ivins were widely read but rarely seen. . . . Everything about the format of Crossfire and the political chat shows established thereafter was tailored to right-wing demagoguery. The demogogues were elevated, given a platform equal to their opponents, who were often nonpartisan journalists sullied by the association. . . . Under the Crossfire formula, if 99 percent of scientists agreed the world was round, while 1 percent said it was flat, the two views were given equal time and, thus, equal validity in the minds of viewers.”

  • Really strong liberals like Nader, whom Turner put on CNN in the early years, eventually disappeared and were not replaced.

  • The business show Lou Dobbs Tonight is presented as news, but Dobbs has the unique (at CNN) title of “commentator and analyst” so he is free to editorialize, and does, in a very pro-conservative direction.

  • In 2001, CNN Chairman Walter Isaacson met with top Republican leaders in the House and Senate “in an effort to burnish the network’s image with conservative leaders and seek their advice on how to attract more right-leaning viewers.” Under Isaacson’s leadership, CNN carried 157 Bush Administration live events but only 7 Democratic leadership events. When Bush unveled his proposal on federal funding for stem cell research, CNN booked many Republican officials to comment but no Democrats.

  • In fall 2003, CNN revamped its schedule, creating a new prime-time show for Paula Zahn (a former Fox News reporter). True to the tradition begun by Turner, contributors to the show included a serious journalist, former Time columnist Joe Klein, and a former Defense Department spokesperson, Victoria Clarke, who spun the news for Rumsfeld during the Iraq war.

So what the hell is liberal about CNN?! :dubious:

As Eric Alterman remarked in his book What Liberal Media, the central tactic for proving the liberal bias of CNN (and other sources as well) was to have conservative commentators endlessly repeat that such a bias exists. Then after many years of this, they declared that the liberal bias must exist, since so many different commentators could not possibly have devoted so much energy to the issue if it wasn’t at least primarily valid. Sadly, this sort of logic works for the majority of people; they assume that having heard the claim over and over and over and over, it couldn’t be entirely made up from scratch.

The good news, though, is that the great awakening may finally be at hand. A majority no longer see solely liberal bias in the news media.

Here’s a link to the actual article: http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000900706:

But I’m asking about CNN in particular. What makes that network such a bugbear, so often cited as the prime example of undeniable liberal press bias, when all the evidence suggests just the opposite?

As far as reporting the news I honestly think people are overreacting about all of the major news networks. As far as the reporting of the facts, I think CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, CNN, MSNBC et al. are “real” and “serious” journalistic institutions.

All of them do things we can quibble about (minor word usage by anchormen and etc) but mostly when reporting the facts they do report the facts.

Most of the bias in today’s media outlets comes in the form of opinion shows. FOX news is very monocentric on the leanings of their opinion shows. CNN is a bit less so, but there’s certainly a weighted favoritism towards shows and analysts with a more left than right bent.

CNN is sort of like the Washington Post. It’s liberal but it’s not something you notice day in day out.

Cite? Examples? Anything at all to back that up? Because my impression is just the opposite.

Cite? Any cite I provide is going to be an opinion. Liberal, conservative, bias, unbiased, these aren’t things we can find scientific evidence supporting or not supporting. We just have to rely on anectdotal remarks and generalizations.

If you don’t like that fact well, you shouldn’t have started this thread.

I’ve come to read many of your posts on this forum. In America you’re what is considered radically lefist. You probably found Bill Clinton to be conservative, or maybe not. But the fact is “society in general” found Bill Clinton to be a left-leaning moderate.

And I’d say most people seem to accept the fact that many of the analysts who appear on CNN are democrat activists or party members (Wes Clark for example) and that most of the opinion show hosts are markedly liberal.

Many Republicans have boycotted the CNN show Crossfire, for example, because they felt like the bias of the hosts was strong enough that they didn’t feel comfortable in appearing on the show.

Another example is Aaron Brown analyzed the war in Iraq for CNN for sometime, and just about every analysis he made boiled down to how the war was wrong and illegal. Now, that’s a fine opinion but it’s a liberal opinion and I think everyone realizes that. And the fact that there’s a lot more Aaron Browns than Tucker Carlson or Robert Novak’s on CNN is why there is seen to be some liberal bias in CNN programming.

Observations of US news shows I have watched in Australia:

News Hour with Jim Leher - PBS - broadcast on free to air TV - looks well balanced
CNNN - on cable - very conservative (pro-government) bias
FOX - on cable - like Pravda circa 1972 - very disturbing - Is George Bush news editor?

There adamant refusal to preface any mention of George W. Bush with the phrase, “the wisest and most benevolent leader in the history of the universe.” :wink:

Basically, what ITR champion said – the whole “liberal media” myth is a canard cooked up by conservatives so they can excuse any media-borne inquiries or criticism. The only distinction CNN has over the rest of the corporate-owned lapdog media in the US is that it was founded by Ted Turner, and given that Ted now holds neither stake nor say in the network’s day-to-day operations, it’s a meaningless distinction.

BG, if you’re really wanting to hear the other side, there are several blogs that do nothing but chronicle what they percieve as bias: here’s one. No endorsement implied.

But hasn’t this topic been done to death?

Not in this specificity of focus, no.

The guy from Austrailia shows us a perfect example of what I am talking about.

This forum is one of the most extremely liberal places you will find on the internet that isn’t some extremist/fanatical message board.

To people like BrainGlutton, people from other country’s etc. CNN probably does appear very “pro-government” or “conservative.”

But if any of you remember CNN’s coverage of the war they were the most critical voice during the invasion, constantly lamenting the fact that our troops were stuck in a “quagmire.” Many CNN commentators were extremely critical of the Bush administration, and were constantly highlighting aspects of the issue that looked unfavorably to Bush.

They were reporting the news, but many felt that what was actually going on militarily > important than Bush’s approval ratings.

I think to the mainstream American voter, IE Joe Everyguy, CNN appears to be slightly left.

Anecdotal, but my experience:

For a political economy class a year or two ago, I did a three month study of bias in various major American news outlets - mostly newspapers, but also the main TV networks. The goal was to look at the actual news reports and the opinion pieces from each source separately, to discern trends of bias in either, and to look at the amount of interaction in bias between the opinions of an editing staff and the way they actually report the news.

Perhaps the only definitive thing to come out of the study, once the class put our results together and started cracking data, was that perceived bias was strongly influenced by the person doing the perceiving - ESPECIALLY for those sources closest to the “center”. Results on the edges of the (American) spectrum were fairly consistent from observer to observer, but the middle was a mish-mash that showed a moderate statisical relationship to the ideology of the observer (small sample, though, since it was a seminar).

For the record, I come from a basically libertarian point of view, and my averages had CNN news reports at basically neutral/objective, and CNN editorial slant at very lightly liberal. Incidentally, the closest of the major newspapers to CNN’s position, from my observation, was the Washington Post that Martin Hyde mentions.

Where did I flick to briefly at the tail end of the news, to see sombre faced ‘a tribute to our fallen heroes’?

Eureka, it was CNN methinks so.

How odd. Why should opposing or criticising the war be seen as necessarily being a ‘liberal opinion’? I can think of several conservatives who opposed it. And a whole lot more now that it has proved to be such a disaster!

Is this just a curious Americanism? Or were you being over-simplistic a tad?

Actually, in any one of the various threads on this topic there are numerous cites of studies done on media bias. Why not do a bit of research, put the studies up, and we can discuss their worth. Maybe will even get a bit more than screams of “biased source” this time around.

For example, here, is a cite provided by Shodan in the last thread mentioned in the OP. I may not agree with the conclusions or the methods used, but it’s more to chew on than anecdotal evidence.

From the Harborwolf/Shodan site we get this:

The Wall Street Journal is the most *liberal * news outlet!? While I rarely read the WSJ, everything I hear is that they are one of the most conservative outlets. Somebody has some 'splaining to do.

I also have some concerns with the methodology.

How would a mainstream news outlet refer positively or negatively to a think tank? Usually when I hear a think tank mentioned it’s in the context of, “Senator Soandso said that black was white, but Joe Whatshisname of the conservative/liberal think tank The Whatever Foundation said that red was yellow.” How is that either a positive or negative cite?

The WSJ’s editorial page is known for being quite conservative, but I don’t believe that the same can be said for its actual news content.

Perhaps this should go in the Pit. But let’s try.

I **deplore **the lazy American tendency to denote **everything **in the world as ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’.

The world just ain’t that simple folks. These may be reasonable terms to use in a political debate, but as soon as you get into anything interesting, you do yourself an injustice if you try to judge things in these simplistic terms.

And from where I am standing, nearly all of your politics and politicians come across as very right-wing, FWIW.

CNN was founded by Ted Turner. Ted Turner was married to Jane Fonda. Jane Fonda is the liberal anti-Christette. Therefore, CNN is liberal.

QED or, if you prefer, “Duh!”

I agree that CNN on the whole seems pretty balanced.

This part of the OP puzzles me, though:

Ted Turner has always been a Democrat, as far as I can tell. He certainly donates heavily to Democratic politicians, and has since the late 70s. I’ve never heard him called “right-wing” by anybody. I’d like to know how Brock’s source for that conclusion.

I do think Turner set out to provide balanced analysis on CNN, and I think he succeeded. Those who view CNN as “liberal” must be viewing it from the far right.